How Models Are Being Used & Abused In Science

How Models Are Being Used & Abused In Science

I was interviewed by the Manipulation Check channel on YouTube the other day on, more or less, the philosophy of models. And how models are being used and abused these days.

Here’s their page description: “Daniel Smilek and Jeffrey Spence, two academics with PhDs in psychology, discuss how psychological principles can be applied to real life problems.”

The video is below. Owing to Hagfish’s razzing, this time I remembered to wear a tie. But I have to do a serious, serious, very most serious upgrade to my cheesy laptop cam. I look like a pasty undertaker who was just let out of the crypt for his monthly constitutional — at night — in the rain.

I turned out orange. Doubtless because of my support of the Orange Man Bad. Who knew it would be catchy?

The harangue ain’t too bad, though. Stick around for at least the discussions of the precautionary principle and scientism.

If you won’t follow my advice about watching the video, follow this guy’s. And make your damn beds.

Eyes, front!

I’m putting the donations received from the other day to use on some sort of camera that can take what it sees when it peers at me, and turns it into something that doesn’t.

Buy my new book and learn to argue against the regime: Everything You Believe Is Wrong.

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  1. Jan Van Betsuni

    These serial re-iterations by Briggs of “models only say (and can only say) what they have been designed to say” are giving me flashbacks of the TV series Lost in Space 1965-68. The series featured A Robot (The Robot Model B-9, also known simply as the Robot). At a critical juncture in each episode the Robot would flash its signal lights, waive its accordion limbs frantically and announce: “Danger Will Robinson! Danger!”

  2. me

    So…are masks 30% “effective” or not?
    That’s really all I want to know.
    I thought that all the “studies” since the Spanish Flu show that masks are NOT effective.
    But it seems to me that if the premise is correct, then the model is useful.
    Or am I missing something, as I almost always am?

  3. awildgoose

    I would express the sentiment that models are not data.

    Conflating models with data has been one of simplest and most effective propaganda tricks they’ve pulled during this entire mess.

  4. C.R. Dickson

    For those who are interested in a scientist’s viewpoint, there is a three part written series now on substack that covers science and models (scientism is partially covered implicitly). They summarize one of the lectures I used to give every year at a local college about global warming. They are short (about 2000 to 3000 words) with many good references. One European meteorological site thinks they are very worthwhile reading ( ).
    1) The Scientific Process, 2) Numbers in Science, 3) and Pathological Science.

    These are based upon some Power Point lectures that were hurriedly made into You Tube videos (I gave the links here a while ago). Part 2 addresses models and uncertainty. Part 3 addresses part of the scientism. Most scientists readily recognize the limitations of science, especially if it becomes ideological, but this is not discussed.

    These writings address models and uncertainty and part of the scientism through pathological science as clearly explained by Irving Langmuir. These articles will be updated over time and there will be additional articles as well. If You Tube’s censoring permits, I hope to convert the lectures and substack writings into many short 4 to 5 minute videos that focus on specific points.

  5. Kip Hansen

    Briggs ==> Definitely — New Camera and Better Lighting.

    Lighting will make the biggest difference (yes, I was a stage manager in my youth — lighting is extremely important). It is not just MORE lighting, but the “color” of the light as well — if using light bulbs, warm and cool white need to be mixed. Better yet is Natural Light or Daylight or full-spectrum bulbs.

    You watch your screen in a test Zoom meeting while you have someone sit in your seat while you adjust the lighting, trying different combinations. Watch the shadows and eliminate as many as possible. Reflecting the light off the walls often helps. When you find just the right combination, write down the set-up or photograph it so you can replicate it next time.

    That said, good lighting for video is an art.

    (PS: I got fired from that stage manager job — but for bad audio by a foreign jazz radio station — wasn’t my fault — really!)

  6. Hagfish Bagpipe

    “I look like a pasty undertaker who was just let out of the crypt for his monthly constitutional — at night — in the rain.”

    If your audience was globohomo that would be a good look. Let me finish splitting this cord of wood and I’ll pop out, we’ll set you up a proper pundit soundstage with all the bells and whistles: a glossy desk, bank of video monitors running clips of stupid stuff, a panoramic green screen backdrop showing various scenes; Top of the Rock views of Manhattan, crazy rickshaw traffic in Peking, a wood-paneled, book-shelved study, shaky-cam footage of zombie hordes staggering about, etc., all lit by 50,000 watts of cunning lighting and acoustically crafted to sound like Carnegie Hall.

    Prop shop supplies thing like a dozen desktop phones, vintage to modern, for the glossy desk, a roll-out blackboard, rubber chickens and whatnot, costume shop for complete kit n’ kaboodle, top hats, lab coats, caudillo uniforms, that sort of thing. Makeup artist makes for the supernatural look plus wigs, moustaches (Briggs Nietzsche interviewing Briggs Hitler), or faux facial tats for story about Maori king transitioning to queen. Will be a producer in the control room, scriptwriters, gag men writing gag ads, all that stuff.

    Scrape up some capital and we’re off to the media races. Big money to be made building alternative platforms.

  7. JohnK

    Totally agree with Kip Hansen — it’s not the camera, it’s the lighting. You’re a rank amateur in cinematography, and immediately drew the inference that the color is bad because of the camera. IT’S THE LIGHTING. Don’t listen to yourself in this area, it’s not your field, you know nothing. Consider that you know nothing, and follow Kip’s advice to the letter; that’s the path to vast improvement.

  8. Kathleen

    I enjoyed the video and I typically have little patience with videos. You come off as very personable!

    Just to chime in on lighting and color being the starting point. And playing with that is a good, cheap starting point.

    On the color you could also adjust that after recording

    This is an OUTSTANDING package. It’s free because the well respected company knows that if they hook you on their software they have a good chance of getting you to buy stuff from them. Lots of outstanding support/training material as well, but steep learning curve.

  9. Great White Guide

    Briggs. Avid reader. Never commented. Found your website through the esteemable George Gilder. Another big free thinker. Anyway, very much enjoyed your broadcast today. I WILL shortly buy at least one of your books. I appreciate your sanity in an insane world.

  10. Robin

    Briggs – not just the lighting, but also your distance to the camera. Don’t want to be too close. There’s a sweet spot.

    My personal view is that you are too critical. I thought it was a good presentation and enjoyed it. Thank you.

    I can’t fault your views on Models, but I’ve used them successfully on many projects in a predictive manner. They’ve worked well. But these were not academic endeavours like many of those used recently for medical purposes, such as Ferguson’s disastrous model.

    They can be very powerful tools in the right hands; my worry is that they are also the playground of charlatans. This puts a stain on all modelers, unfortunately, including the useful ones.

  11. Oldavid

    I particularly like that W’m Briggs gives some encouragement to some of us old, ugly “out of touch” grumps. Of course, W’m is less old, less ugly, more “in touch” and, as result, someone that we should find fault with.

    Motor Mouths always make me cringe.

  12. Darin Johnson

    This was a good. Well done.

    In my opinion (which I know you didn’t ask for!) you should discipline yourself to minimize all the quasi-political throwaway statements (e.g., “feminized”). Not that they’re wrong, but they unnecessarily rile people who really, really need to hear what you have to say, and might otherwise be receptive.

    We have enough people making snarky comments about politics and such. They’re worthless except as entertainment for the converted. What we don’t have are enough “scientific textualists.”

    Be that!

  13. DEEBEE

    Mask efficacy, like communism, needs enlightened humans

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